I pull over in front of the school. In my impatience, I even forget to signal. The driver behind me, gracious despite my erratic move, doesn’t honk. I glance at the School Bus Zone sign. No yellow curb, and, it’s two o’oclock in the afternoon. So I’m safe for the two minutes I need to jot down the aphorism I spied on the school sign a few metres back. We can dance when we find music that we love. Okay, I think. Self-evident, really. How can you disagree with that? The larger question is, though, Do I want to dance only when it’s my kind of music?
Of course, it’s easy to dance when there’s music we love. When a favorite song comes on, my feet begin to tap, my torso sways in time, and my fingers drum on the table. I don’t jive so well, but when Len Gadica plays the first chords of "Come Go With Me" (The Beach Boys), I am already up and moving, singing "Dom dom dom dom dom / dom be dooby / dom whoa whoa whoa whoa." Maybe I even look like I know what I'm doing. At least, I am one with the music and my partner for those glorious minutes.
Life can work like that, too. Some people call it being in the zone. We find ourselves in a context where the planets align—our abilities, our training, the people who surround us, the workplace mood, and a sense of accomplishment, all come together. Magic happens. David Whyte, in Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimmage of Identity, cites an analogy to the swan from an Austrian monk. On land, the bird has an ungainly waddle. He doesn’t "cure his awkwardness by beating himself on the back, by moving faster, or by trying to organize himself better. He does it by moving toward the elemental water, where he belongs. It is the simple contact with the water that gives him grace and presence." To be transformed, then, "You only have to touch the elemental waters in your own life." In other words, you only need to find music that you love.
I have experienced periods of that kind of synergy (see Antidote blog post). The thing is, I want to dance all the time, or at least most of the time, not just when I have music I love. Not just when I am in my elemental waters, or when all the planets align. It can take a long time to find the music you love, or you might hear it only intermittently. What about the rest of the time? Life is too short to dance only once in a while.
So, a few decades ago, I decided to dance no matter what the music. That was the first step, the decision itself. I wouldn’t let my environment or circumstances determine my outlook. I would paste on a smile if I had to; I would will myself onto the dance floor even if I didn’t like the music. In the end, those efforts have paid off. I have preserved my joy. I don’t care what day of the week it is—Monday, Friday, Sunday, no matter. Each day brings delights.
Another pivotal attitude reset was the realization that I am the critical factor. The dancer, not the kind of music, makes the dance. As a friend of a friend said to her daughter who wanted to change schools, "Remember, wherever you go, you are there, too." I can dance if I want to. Maybe if I dance, others will dance, too. I don’t need an invitation. I’ve come a long way from the high school wallflower days.
It’s been helpful, too, to insulate myself with a Star-Trekkian magnetic field that repels negativity. Most of the time, the field protects me. It can thin a little in vulnerable spots, though. At those times, I catch myself going beyond healthy personal reflection for growth to hyper self-criticism. I have to remain vigilant. Breaks in the music feed make dancing very difficult.
Music we love does heighten the pleasure we get from dance. It might even help us attain heights we never thought possible. Conversely, music we don’t like doesn’t have to limit us. We can decide to rock out no matter the conditions.